City get slack up front
The Manchester Evening Standard ran a puff piece this week with a self-explanatory title that lacked nothing in self-indulgence: “The stunning numbers that prove Man City can dominate in Europe as well as the Premier League.”
It goes on to list the various parameters you’d expect them to dominate in — possession, passes, shots. Their superiority in those measures in recent games has been indisputable.
“If Pep Guardiola’s men keep up their dominance in these key statistics …[it will] put them closer to achieving the Champions League trophy they want more than any other title,” it reads.
What the article ignores, apart from the obvious nuance, is a key metric when it comes to actually winning games: goals.
City were tearing through teams for the hell of it last season but maintained a very respectable average of a 20% conversion rate.
Against Hoffenheim on Tuesday, that fell to 13% as they scuffed chance after chance on their way to 15 shots.
At the weekend, against Brighton & Hove Albion, it stood at an alarming 7%.
In the Champions League, which they’re going to win, according to their media buddies, things would have looked quite awkward in their group had they not eventually taken one of their chances in the 86th minute. Before that, German stubbornness and English frustration was the story of the day.
All looked to be in order when a beautiful move saw Leroy Sané square it centre for a Sergio Agüero equaliser but then some weird occurrences began to happen.
Raheem Sterling’s barbarous run down the right was for nought as he harked back to his old Liverpool self when finishing came as naturally as flying to him. Then Nicolás Otamendi failed to find the net from a corner. A few minutes later Agüero couldn’t deliver the ball past a scrambling goalkeeper after some more incredible hustling by Sané. And then the clock clicked to only 35 minutes.
And so was the story of the second half until David Silva liberated the ball from a defender at the near death and saved his team what would have been very bright blushes.
As the cliché goes, the scoreline didn’t tell the full story at home to Brighton last weekend either. Considering City’s dominance in all other facets of the match, “struggle” is a word that comes to mind when we think of the manner in which they put their visitors to the sword.
This will all hardly be a concern for City fans —unless you’re from Madrid, fans take their wins however they come. Nonetheless, Guardiola will be acutely aware that their lackadaisical forward mentality will be punished by higher opposition.
Unfortunately for him, that’s what awaits this weekend when Liverpool welcome his side to Anfield on Sunday. Should they find their conversions at a similar level of disarray and they limp out of Merseyside, even their tabloids may struggle to name them as European favourites.